This Is How You Fail At Overcoming Procrastination

A photo of someone slipping on banana peel with the text overlay saying: The best ways to (badly) overcome procrastination

Procrastination is like a credit card: fun until you get the bill. It’s also the art of keeping up with yesterday.

I wish I could say I came up with those insights. Alas, they’re credited to people much smarter than I am. Who, you ask? I’ll get back to you on that. Tomorrow. Maybe.

Look, I wish I could tell you I have the answer to procrastination, and that there is a surefire way to getting things done, but every time I think I’ve solved the problem, I wake up the next day and have to fight the battle all over again.

But just because I don’t have the answers doesn’t mean I don’t have the answers, am I right? So here are ways to fail at beating procrastination (which I excel at). And if you’re looking at actually being productive, all you’ll need to do is the reverse.

1. Break down your tasks into manageable chunks

You’ve got this. You’ve read Atomic Habits, after all. Baby steps are the way to go. You gotta make that sales call, so let’s break that down:

  1. Unlock your phone
  2. Tap the numbers
  3. Don’t projectile vomit.
  4. ???
  5. Profit

Okay, not very useful. Maybe you have underlying problems that you need to address first. Maybe you’re not knowledgeable enough. Or the steps are still too big. Maybe you don’t even like the product you’re selling.

Then you realise it’s been four hours and you’re still procrastinating on this damned call. And now the to-do list looks even more overwhelming. Is there a way to break down the list even further? No? Dammit.

A broken egg shell with scrawls drawn inside

Break the tasks down, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Photo: Dennis Anderson

2. Keep a bullet journal

If it helps with ADHD, it’ll probably help with procrastination! The entire internet seems to be behind this magical habit of bujo-ing. Surely, it’ll help you stay on track with your chores, at the very least?

Problem is, the things people track don’t really appeal to you. Who cares about weekly spreads, or a food log, or a mood tracker? You want to get things done!

So you browse for layouts that suit you. Problem is, none of them do, because you’re a unique individual. And like many other unique individuals—who are procrastinating in other areas, no less—you get overwhelmed at the sheer amount of information available on the internet.

Keep a bullet journal? More like staying stationary thanks to stationery. Dammit.

3. Time-block your day

You look up YouTube’s productivity gurus and find this miraculous practice called time-blocking. Apparently, telling yourself you’ll do something in advance is all you need to beat procrastination.

You fire up Google Calendar and figure out how to create an entry. This whole thingamajig might work, provided you remember to stare at you calendar tab all day.

So you crack open your bullet journal instead, and realise you’ll need to draw out your calendar to make this work. But you know better. That’s just another form of procrastination.

There must be a better way to approach this time-blocking thing, but finding out involves putting off the tasks you need to do today. Dammit.

Someone on a Macintosh with a filled Google Calendar

You learn pretty quickly that the act of time-blocking is much tougher than actually following your tasks. Photo: Gaining Visuals

4. Get an accountability partner

You send this message to your friend:

“If I don’t finish writing a blog post by today, I’ll give you $10.”

Your friend replies:

“Who’s this? How did you get my number?”

You made that up. You messaged a random number. Because you don’t have any friends. Dammit.

5. Change your environment

Going outdoors will do you good. Maybe you’ll bring your laptop to a cafe. The coffeeshop ambience is always conducive to writing, is it not?

So you go out and you actually feel a boost in productivity. Everyone can see that you have a word processor open. You must look like a bestselling author to them. Best play the part.

That is until your crime thriller research produces a website that’s dodgy at best. Pics of dead bodies litter your screen. You try closing the windows but your damned laptop is too slow, so you slam it shut and forget about writing.

What’s that Wednesday Addams quote again? That writers and serial killers share the same traits? You probably look like the latter to everybody else in the coffeeshop now. So much for ‘bestselling author’.

A busy coffeeshop wit

Coming here will totally improve your productivity… NOT. Photo: Nicolas J Leclercq

What’s the root of the problem?

Fortunately, you’re not fazed by an obstacle or two. You know that failing is just part of getting better, and that someday, you’ll stop working so hard to put off hard work.

Sometimes, these revelations make sense. Other times, not so much. But hey, one more hint means one more step closer to solving the puzzle, right? Here are the conclusions you might make.

Technology: You’re not a Luddite, so of course you’re going to have a mobile phone attached to your hand 24/7. But you learn that the less time you spend getting bombarded with random information, the more clarity you have to tackle the day’s tasks.

Fear of discomfort: At the end of the day, work tends not to be fun. And you’d much rather do fun things for the rest of your life. Problem is, even the fun things have their unfun bits, so you deduce that surfing through the discomfort will serve you so much better than trying to avoid it.

No interest: Maybe it’s not procrastination. Maybe it’s just straight up disinterest. Because when it comes to exercising, you’re pretty consistent, even on the bad days. Sure, things like work don’t come with a guarantee of interest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a day you actually enjoy.

Perfect things only: You’re not a perfectionist. At least that’s what you think. But upon further inspection, you realise that you’re the type of person who waits for all the traffic lights to turn green before you start on your journey. That’s not perfectionism, per se, but it is a pretty uncanny spinoff. So you tell yourself to embrace a red light every once in a while.

Mental clutter: You’ve accumulated a backlog in your mind. So many things in life aren’t in order yet. For instance, you’ve been meaning to service the car, get your blood work done, and repair your leaky roof. But you haven’t and all that procrastination is gnawing at you. That’s the reason why you don’t have the energy for new tasks. So you make it a point to clear the hidden depths of your conscience from time to time.

A messy desk with all types of

Sometimes you gotta clear the old clutter to make way for new things. Photo: Samantha Gades

Don’t stop overcoming procrastination

This is a lifelong journey. You will never truly beat procrastination, no matter how well you crush your day. Because there’s always tomorrow and the challenges it brings.

But at least you’re all fired up now. You’re ready to make today suck a little less, and take on a task you’ve been putting off.

That is until you realise you’ve just spent five minutes reading this post. Five minutes that could’ve been spent actually tackling procrastination.

Dammit.


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88 thoughts on “This Is How You Fail At Overcoming Procrastination

  1. Ugh. Tax season is coming up and that’s the thing I procrastinate on the most – prepping my taxes. And I’m not even talking about DOING my taxes – just prepping them to send off to the accountant, Every year after I’ve finally done it, I invariably say, “That wasn’t that bad.” Yet the next year the procrastination cycle starts all over again. Go figure.

    Like

    • I think there’s a very valid reason why we procrastinate. It’s because we’ve evolved to hoard our energy and use it for the important things. So what you’re doing is actually the ‘right’ thing. Too bad modern life doesn’t work that way, huh? Danged brains won’t learn what’s good for it. Anyhoo, best get a head start and prep a little bit at a time starting now!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Question: how long does it take you to write your blog posts? they are very well organized yet have your personality written all over them. Does it stress you out having to post each week or do you have so many writings in your drafts that all you have to do is edit them by posting day? Anywho, I don’t read every single one of your posts but when I do get to read one I am always amazed. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heya Kiana! Each post is a different beast, so sometimes it just pours out of me, and other times it could be like trying to wring juice out of a rock. Timelines? I’m guessing anywhere from one day to a couple weeks.

      I don’t feel ‘stressed’ like I did when I was working at a news desk, but it does give me a healthy amount of motivation to finish something.

      But yeah, I also have a ton of gibberish in my Drafts folder which I sometimes whip into shape. Anything goes, really.

      Loved your thoughtful comment. Thanks so much for your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Break the tasks down, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.” Lol!
    “You made that up. You messaged a random number. Because you don’t have any friends. Dammit.”
    “you’re the type of person who waits for all the traffic lights to turn green before you start on your journey. ” brilliant
    And, of course, the last line: Dammit.
    :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I liked the post and wanna add,
    We often procrastinate when there is no urgency in doing that task or when we have ample time to do it. We often rescheduled it and failed to do it at the end of the day.
    To overcome that I used to do the boring or difficult tasks first in the morning when I have high focus and energy and reschedule the easy or exciting task for the end of the day when I am tired, It works most of the time for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a lovely comment that benefits not only me, but everyone else who reads this. I love the idea of eating your frog first thing in the morning, but what I love even more is having a list of tasks that you can tackle when you’re tired. Thanks so much for visiting and sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I like to plan all my things in the early morning while I still have that happy mood vibe going on. Thanks for the post. I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year with my best wishes for 2023.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s always easier to be optimistic in the morning, isn’t it? And when the day is drawing to a close, I feel more and more sad that it’s ending. But I prefer preparing way ahead (the night before) so that I can enjoy the mornings that much more. Thanks so much for sharing your process!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow Stuart a very fascinating and very important message conveyed here. I have to say this December I am procrastinating but in the right way.

    Thanks for the tips here and about the accountability part and changing the environment where one usually writes is a useful tip

    Happy Holidays Stu🌲🙏🙏💯👏

    Liked by 2 people

    • Do share how you procrastinate the right way. I could use some of that knowledge to feel less guilty about my ‘bad’ procrastination :D

      And thank you for always stopping by. Have a merry Christmas and a great start to your 2023!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. what I found funny was that repetitive “dammit” after elaborating on each point but what you were referring is true that all of us are procrastinators who tend to rely on productive gurus on YouTube.

    Btw sorry for the spoil but make sure to have a read on K.M. Allan’s yearly roundup post as she’s mentioned you in her favourite blogger’s list. (unless you might miss reading it)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lol finally! You’re the first person to mention the dammit thing, and I wonder if I may have tried too hard for humour there. But I’m glad you spoke of that.

      And thanks for the heads up because I wasn’t aware of the mention, which is so awesome on Kate’s behalf.

      I appreciate you!

      Like

  8. “So you crack open your bullet journal instead, and realise you’ll need to draw out your calendar to make this work.”

    LOL this line is real! I tried journaling and time-blocking but the work itself to do it is time consuming and makes me procrastinate.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. This one was a fun read! I think mental clutter is the biggest issue I face. Too many things to do! After chemo, I couldn’t get my brain to focus at all. It was like 10,000 thoughts spiraling in different directions and I had to try to catch one with a butterfly net full of holes. Fortunately, I’ve improved a lot in the last two years, but a planner is my BFF. If I don’t write something down, it’s gone.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I get just a normal fever and already I can’t think straight. I can’t imagine what it’d be like with chemo.

      And yes to writing things down! The important bit for me is being able to keep things top of mind. When I store it away in a digital programme, it still gets lost. I need a piece of paper in front of me always.

      Anyway, always great to have you here, Sarah!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m such a procrastinator that at this point I don’t even remember what I’m procrastinating about. The other day I said “I’m going to decorate the tree now!” in order to avoid something and days later I still can’t remember what I was avoiding. It might have just been out of habit.

    Liked by 3 people

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  12. Great post, found myself laughing at myself while reading! Guilty of every procrastination point you’ve made. I’ve never found to-do lists helpful and tried so hard to make them work. For easy enough tasks, I don’t even need one and for more complex ones, I can’t even make a list without going overboard with the number of steps involved. Most of the times, I don’t even end up following the list because so many complications pop up in between!

    Liked by 5 people

    • I gotta admit, while bullet journalling may not fit my style, to-do lists are actually helpful for me. Things just get magically done when I have a list. Break the tasks down though? Now that doesn’t work as well, because my scumbag brain refuses to see small tasks as an achievement. It’s a work in progress.

      Thanks for your lovely comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I see that all the time about accountability partner, and I have to break out my big sign and wave it over my head. You know, the one that says “Introvert”! Ha! (I tried my cats, but they make terrible accountability partners. Unless it involves persistent meow reminders that it’s lap time or brushie time or time to refill my treat puzzle box, already!)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Maybe this is a sign that we should learn to be accountability partners for our selves. I’ve heard of great personalities coming up with an alter ego to deal with ultra marathons or public speaking engagements. There’s a risk we might turn into that dude in the movie Split though :P

      Liked by 2 people

  14. This post was so fun to read so totally worth the time 😁 I relate to many observations you make here. I guess the more tips and tricks we try to follow, the worse it gets. I often find that going back to the “just do it” mindset is enough. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 4 people

    • ‘Just do it’ really is one of the best sayings in the least words possible. Oftentimes, I find myself wallowing too much in my own emotions, and just doing it gets me out of that funk. So much so that I’ve learned not to trust my initial doubts and worries. Anyway, thanks so much for your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Great ideas, thanks Stuart. I needed this. Just today, I was listening to The War of Art and Mr. Steven Pressfield was telling me “To make progress, you have to work. You have to do it.” I find that having set dates once a month with my writing partner helps get me back up on the horse, but I need some motivation to stay on that horse for the month between meetings. Working on it…. Aloha!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yeah, it really can be a challenge for those of us who aren’t self-starters. But I’ve found that taking the smallest steps does help. Then at the end of the day, I can tell myself ‘at least I did x’. Much better than not doing anything, that’s for sure.

      And I mean small. Like choose a title for a blog post. That’s it. Or think of a scene and what will happen, but not write it. As much as I make fun of baby steps, it really is incredibly useful for me!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. I have ADHD and use my#BUJO almost daily. You’re right about finding a layout that is useful for you. In fact, before I started using the Bullet Journal method, I spent a few weeks on watching YT vids to better understand why this method is different. My format has changed from year to year and sometimes month to month. Creator of BUJO, Ryder Carroll has some amazingly simplistic insight on different formats and how scalable this tool can be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve actually studied the bujo method pretty comprehensively, having bought Carroll’s book too. Used the method for a year or so, and what I’ve realised is when I flip back through those pages, I actually forgot what some of those things were because of how brief the bullets are. But it works great to keep us on track with tasks and reminders. Definitely has its uses though, but for a totally different purpose.

      I personally enjoy going through old journals and exploring my psyche during that time, which is why long form is great for me. I can’t mix both bullet and long form though, because I’d get bothered by the messiness.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your perspective! I enjoyed reading it :)

      Liked by 2 people

  17. Good ideas, Stuart. People have to find what trick works best for them. I procrastinated for many years, but I’ve largely kicked the habit. My main hack is that I never forget the feeling of empowerment from taking care of business (Props to those who remember the song from Bachman Turner Overdrive).

    When I have more than one thing I don’t want to do, My move is to take on the hardest one first. That way, the others don’t seem as challenging. Rather than working up the courage or motivation, I feel good about myself when I just do it. (What is it with these slogans? I didn’t mean to do it, Nike.)

    Liked by 4 people

    • Oh yes! You really triggered good feelings there. I feel good just from taking care of the most mundane of things. Like getting the car serviced. Or cutting my hair and nails. Having visited the dentist. Done my taxes. The word I use to describe it is ‘noble’.

      But still, it is a challenge to get over friction, and procrastination is a habit I’ve trained myself to excel in for thirty years or so. But I like your eat the frog method, and most times, ‘just do it’ is more useful than not!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome Stuart…
        And hey, promised me that, no matter how hard the difficulties and challenges you were facing in life, that you won’t ever ever give up no matter what!

        Promised me Stuart! I really want you excelling on any obstacles. You’re the best I’ll ever got. Be strong and face the stupid difficulty without a hint of buckling down.

        I love you Stuart 💕💕💕

        Much love 💪💪💪

        Liked by 2 people

  18. Great techniques Stuart and I’m gonna come back to this later and read the fine print otherwise, I’d be procrastinating and I’m over my blog time. 🤣 But I can never pass you up,

    ““If I don’t finish writing a blog post by today, I’ll give you $10.”

    Your friend replies:’

    I’d give you 30 if you can write my holiday post.. 🤣🎄
    I’ll throw in Chocolate 🍫 Too .. hahahahaha

    Liked by 3 people

  19. So many techniques to try but will any of them actually work? Thanks for jogging my memory that I want to read Atomic Habits because I am sure it will solve all my time management concerns. I paused in the middle of this post to go and put a hold on it on the library site. But, I did come back and finish reading!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Lol, Atomic Habits has some pretty useful points to apply to our day, but I’ve probably only applied 10% of it into my own life. Particularly the small steps bit. It’s interesting to see how different people took different messages from the book. Anyway, always great having you here!

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Where to start with this one, Stuart. I can so relate to everything you wrote, but I must admit, despite being a list person, I can’t get my head around a bullet journal – it just doesn’t seem/feel organised or structured enough for me. But I am definitely also a perfectionist and can spend an entire day or more just planning rather than actually do anything. I’m sure, if I could put my mind to it, I could come up with a list of how I procrastinate and my failed attempts to master it; but I’ll need some thinking time … and some planning time first

    Liked by 5 people

    • Lol yeah, I think we’re alike in that the planning process takes more brainpower than the actual task. I can plan how to use Vim for writing (for days!) before I actually start writing with Vim. The settings have to be just right, the folders need to be created beforehand, and the unnecessary plug-ins also need to be installed. And that’s just one thing. Gah.

      But yeah, I feel you on the bullet journal part, and I like to-do lists too!

      Liked by 2 people

    • I am intrigued by bullet journals because they look cool when talented people make them, but I wouldn’t attempt it for two reasons, first I’m not talented, and secondly and more importantly, I’d screw up the dates and throw the entire thing off.

      Liked by 3 people

  21. Procrastinating is not healthy for a self-employed writer, right? But it’s necessary and hard to overcome. I certainly haven’t.

    I found two simple tools that at least help. One is a no bells and whistle program called Habit Trekker. Free, and I have several goals and tiny rewards (like go get a scoop of ice cream) when I meet the goal for whatever days I set.
    Then I use a simple Microsoft to/do list. After a few days of not getting something done, I know it’s time to finish that blog post.
    The Pomodoro timing technique works well for me. I can always spend 25 minutes answering Quora questions or making comments on other people’s posts before I play a game of solitaire and get another cup of coffee.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. So, I got caught up with the delightful candy-colored schedule, which is just like mine. And just like mine, it bleeds a lot. hahahaha But seriously, we all suffer procrastination, and I suspect we also benefit from it.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. As someone who writes extensively on procrastination and overcoming it and yet still struggles with it, I really appreciate this post. An accountability partner is one of the most helpful things I’ve done when it comes to certain projects.

    Liked by 4 people

  24. I’ve learned over the years, Stuart, that procrastination is a part of the creative mind. Sometimes it’s better to surrender and wait for another day. When the P word hits I like to delve more into why I am avoiding what I’m doing. A piece of writing or a piece of art can come out the other side.

    Liked by 7 people

  25. “If I don’t finish writing a blog post by today, I’ll give you $10.”
    Your friend replies:
    “Who’s this? How did you get my number?”
    You made that up. You messaged a random number. Because you don’t have any friends. Dammit.

    This is me in a nutshell. Honestly, when it comes to writing, I’ve pretty much have a cycle of doing a lot, and then doing very little. For other things, fear holds me back. It also doesn’t help that I’ve been burned in the past, so that is also a factor.

    Keep being awesome Stuart, we need more people like you on the internet for countering those gurus who seem to have it all, and yet they are miserable in their real life. (Or you know, they are complete sociopaths. Latter most likely.)

    Liked by 6 people

    • I can totally relate to ‘doing a lot, then doing a little’. I think I swing pretty dramatically between both extremes. When I let go, I really let go.

      And thank you for always leaving your awesome comments and support. It would suck doing this without you.

      Like

  26. I fail miserably at time blocks. At this moment in time, it’s like they’re my kryptonite.
    Me to myself: “Okay, I’ll do it, 2pm!”
    Also me: “You can’t tell me what to do!”

    On a more successful note, I’ve built up a number of indirect habits through the years that blend together to make sure it helps to schedule a day in advance. Because I journal on a regular basis, I’m more likely to look and tell myself to build my day around that task; because I’m aware of the stuff that tends to pop up on certain days, I can visualise and tell myself, “Oh yeah, it’s most likely going to be one of those days where I’ll find excuses if I have such and such a chore to do. I’ll make sure I do that the day before so I’m more likely to go ahead with the task I scheduled for that day”.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Ooo, addressing problems before they arise (based on data and previous experiences). I like that. Journalling really can be useful, isn’t it? The main thing is having a proper purpose for the journal in the first place.

      Thanks so much for sharing your process. This will be wildly useful not just for me, but for others looking to find their way!

      Liked by 3 people

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